Online Master's Programs in Political Science

Political science master's programs cultivate advanced skills and knowledge in social science research and analysis. These programs develop essential tools for engaging society and addressing some of its most pressing issues. Graduates enjoy distinct benefits including positive job growth, increased earning potential, and broad career prospects.

This guide covers important information about master's in political science programs, including common curricula, financial aid opportunities, and potential careers and salaries for graduates.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Political Science Program?

During a master's in political science program, learners develop skills in critical thinking, analytical problem-solving, and written and oral communication. Students also gain advanced research skills, learning to gather, classify, and synthesize complex information and translate that information for the general public.

Learners examine the history and development of political institutions. They assess the behavior of these institutions, beginning with their inception in antiquity up through their modern formulations and contemporary applications. Learners also study domestic and international economic policies and their interaction with nation states and various systems of government. Additional topics include public policy, international affairs, justice and equity, trade and commerce, and legal philosophy.

What Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Political Science Program?

The following list contains common courses in master's in political science programs. However, specific course offerings vary by program, so prospective learners should consult potential schools and departments for further details.

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    Introduction to Political Philosophy: This course examines common normative questions related to public policy, governance, and ethical reasoning. Learners review a variety of classic texts in the field as well as different political systems and their conceptual underpinnings.
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    Public Policy: This course explores the development and implementation of public policy measures. Learners study major issues and problems that generate policy along with the data used to develop solutions. Learners also examine political strategies related to public policy and evaluate landmark public policy case studies.
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    International Relations: This class provides an overview of international relations and global geopolitical affairs. Learners research and discuss topics like nationalism, balances of power, foreign trade negotiation, imperialism, and Western statecraft. The course also examines the role of non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, and nonprofit entities.
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    Legislation and Lobbying: Learners in this course examine the legislative process in different systems of governance with an emphasis on Western liberal democracies. Degree-seekers study recent research on legislative politics and explore topics like lobbying, voting, special interest groups, and political budgeting.
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    Statistical and Quantitative Analysis: This course develops core research skills specific to politics and the social sciences. Degree-seekers practice quantitative research techniques and learn to interpret statistical analyses. Potential topics include probability distributions, central tendency and dispersion, and forecasting.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Most learners pursuing a master's in political science online must pass qualifying examinations. These exams vary by program, so prospective degree-seekers should consult potential schools for further details. Generally, these exams assess acquired skills and knowledge and determine a candidate's readiness for employment or further study. Most exams involve a combination of written and oral components.

Some programs may also require a written thesis, in addition to qualifying examinations. A thesis typically includes original research and contributions to the field. Once complete, degree-seekers must defend their thesis before a committee of faculty experts.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Political Science Program?

Some master's in political science programs offer specializations. These subfields encourage the development of specialized knowledge and skills. In many cases, specializations lead to better career prospects.

  • American Politics:

    Learners in this specialization focus on the study of American political institutions, including institution history, development, and codifications. Students review how these institutions behave in certain circumstances and conduct research surrounding current issues.

  • International Relations:

    This concentration focuses on global political concerns related to security and economic trade. Common research topics include human rights, environmental issues, global finance, and international law.

  • Political Theory:

    This specialization covers the philosophical and conceptual foundations of modern political institutions and their behavior. Students review Western and non-Western systems of governance, as well as topics like global justice, legal theory, constitutionalism, and human rights.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Political Science?

Earning a master's in political science online does not automatically guarantee a career or certain wage; however, many graduates with this degree land lucrative positions, including those listed below.

Political Scientist

Political scientists examine the origin, evolution, and operation of various political systems. They often study political ideas, analyze policy and governments, and forecast potential trends in the field. These professionals use quantitative research methods and typically work for governing bodies, policy organizations, and broadcasting outlets.

Median Annual Salary: $117,570

Job Growth 2018-2028: 5%

Postsecondary Political Science Teacher

Postsecondary teachers provide education to students in colleges and universities. They conduct academic research in political science and teach courses in politics, government, and international affairs. Most jobs in this area require a doctorate, although individuals with only a master's may qualify for some positions.

Median Annual Salary: $83,370

Job Growth 2018-2028: 7-10%

Economist

Economists work at the intersection of political science and economics. They examine the production and distribution of goods and collect data related to these efforts. They also analyze and evaluate current trends in international trade and other economic

Median Annual Salary: $104,340

Job Growth 2018-2028: 8%

Online Master's in Political Science Program Accreditation

Currently, no programmatic accrediting body exists for political science departments. Therefore, prospective learners should ensure that potential schools hold regional or national accreditation from independent bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high academic standards and expands employment, education, and financial aid opportunities for students.

How to Pay for a Master's in Political Science Degree

Students can take advantage of several financial aid opportunities to help defray the cost of their education, such as departmental aid, federal grants, and research fellowships.

  • Departmental Aid

    Many master's in political science programs extend tuition reduction opportunities to learners. These opportunities vary by school and program, so degree-seekers should consult specific programs for further details.

  • Federal Grants

    Applicants should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to see if they qualify for graduate-level grants. Unlike loans, students do not need to repay grant awards.

  • Research Fellowships

    Many schools and organizations offer research fellowships or assistantships to qualifying degree-seekers. These competitive opportunities typically involve a service component that coincides with learners' research.

Scholarships for Master's in Political Science Students

Boren Fellowships

Who Can Apply: U.S. graduate learners studying fields of critical importance to U.S. national interests may apply for this award. Applicants must submit reference letters and essays for committee review.

Amount:Varies

Apply for Fellowship

Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship Program

Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants must plan to study a field pertinent to international relations and global affairs. They must also maintain a minimum 3.2 cumulative GPA.

Amount: Up to $37,500 a year for two years

Apply for Scholarship

Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship

Who Can Apply: Applicants must possess 3-5 years of relevant professional experience. They must also plan to work in a public policy-related field upon graduation. Candidates must complete an online application and provide references.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: This award supports degree-seekers and working professionals committed to advancing social change. Applicants must provide a personal statement and reference letters.

Amount: $15,000

Apply for Scholarship

Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation

Who Can Apply: Competitive awards offered by this foundation support learners interested in politics, economics, and governance. Applicants must be nominated and complete a questionnaire and an online application.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Professional Organizations and Resources

Master's in political science students and graduates can take advantage of professional resources and organizations. Many professional organizations offer benefits like professional development, financial aid, and networking opportunities.

  • The American Academy of Political and Social Science:

    Founded in 1899, this organization promotes progress and research in the social sciences. It awards outstanding achievement in the field, sponsors relevant publications, and hosts regular events.

  • American Political Science Association:

    Headquartered in Washington, D.C., this organization publishes several academic journals in the field. It also offers career services, sponsors annual conferences, and administers training programs for professionals.

  • American Society for Public Administration:

    This organization sponsors local political science chapters throughout the country. It also promotes a professional code of ethics, disseminates current scholarship, and provides job boards.

  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management:

    Focusing on public domestic policy, this association has fostered excellence and innovation in the discipline since 1978. It aggregates recent news related to political science and public policy and offers career services for working professionals in these areas.

  • American Economic Association:

    Established in 1885, this organization publishes academic journals in economics and supports professionals working at the intersection of economics and political science. It also provides professional development resources and hosts regular meetings.